Action is heating up in the English news genre with Times Now gaining significant ground from where it was in 2006. While the scene in 2006 put CNN-IBN as a stronger contender for the leadership position in the genre and the leader NDTV 24x7 kept the fight tough, Times Now was struggling on the lower end of the graph, followed by Headlines Today. However, the first four months of 2007 have a different picture to paint.
TAM Media Research shows that for the target C&S 15+ in the metro markets, Times Now has taken a clear leadership position. While the beginning of the year sees very close competition between NDTV 24x7, CNN-IBN and Times Now, Times Now has been on a rise February 2007 onwards. Barring one dip, the channel has managed the numero uno slot in the C&S 15+ TG for the metro markets.
In close following at the second place is NDTV 24x7. The ratings struggle is tough between CNN-IBN and NDTV 24x7, where the former has managed a few good weeks for itself in metros. However, for the last two months, NDTV 24x7 is clearly on the second slot and CNN-IBN on the third. Headlines Today showed a promising beginning in 2007, but the channel is on the lower end of the spectrum of English news channels.
If a broader market scenario is taken into consideration, NDTV 24x7 is the clear leader in the C&S 15+ audience in the all-India market. For a brief period in the beginning of the year, CNN-IBN had taken leadership position in this market. However later in the year, it is largely on the number two slot. Times Now is on the third slot here. The channel has shown a growth trend and in the last four weeks has taken a lead over CNN-IBN to be in the second position, while CNN-IBN is on the third. With this, the gap of these three channels with Headlines Today has further widened.
When it comes to business news channels, CNBC TV-18 is clearly leading. The channel has especially managed some very strong numbers for the male C&S 25+ target. NDTV Profit did show a steady graph for the beginning but in the last two months, the channel has declined.
If the male TG is seen, apart from the business news channel, the general news channels also have a strong male delivery, and again NDTV 24x7 has some good numbers to show for this target.
Excerpts from experts
Competition is very tough in the English news genre if rating is anything to go by. Nonetheless, the industry is clearly divided on whether ratings are important for this genre or perception. Starcom’s GM for Future Works unit, Dinesh Rathore believes that perception of a channel is important for this genre.
He said, “Ratings surely have a role to play and over a period of time, they influence perception. However, as of right now, perhaps due to the first move advantage, NDTV 24x7 enjoys great market equity. That said, CNN-IBN with the association with CNN, and Times Now with the association with the Times Group have an advantage too.”
Anamika Mehta, VP, Lodestar Universal, brings another point of view. She said, “The absolute numbers will never portray a true picture of the merit of the genre and the channels, if you look at ratings. What matters here is credibility and the market perception, and NDTV 24x7 is the clear leader on that count.”
On the other hand, Prasanth Kumar, National Trading Director, GroupM, believes that ratings reflect perception. He said, “Perception is a point of view and you have a view by either watching or word of mouth -- either ways it has to show in ratings.”
Speaking on the growth that Times Now has shown, Rathore said, “I think what is working in their favour is that they are picking on topics that are different from what you see on the other channels, and somewhere that is agreeing with the urban population. Content and its treatment is arguably similar on CNN-IBN and NDTV 24x7, and although Times Now may not necessarily be better in content but it is different.”
Kumar added, “I think it is the presenting methodology of the channel, the way they are packaging news and the timing of some of their content -- whether sports or political -- that is working in the favour of the channel.”
On the other hand, Mehta believes that Times Now has been picking up across audiences and more so in Delhi and Mumbai, as it was one of the first channels that went free-to-air as well. She said that if the content was analysed, there was a difference in the content packaging of the channel, with their weekend programming and other blocks that may be drawing a loyal set of audiences.
Nonetheless, the experts give a word of caution pointing out that this genre has no permanent leaders. In the last nine months, different leaders have emerged and this is a trend that will continue. The English news channels genre, with an increase in players, has grown in audience in the year. What media experts are watching out for is whether these channels will go for a mass TG or slice audiences and master a certain demographic to attain further growth.